Virtual is good, but we still hold a candle for face to face

Pulse+IT was out in force this week at the Digital Health Institute Summit in Melbourne, which for some of us was the first opportunity to see interstate human beings in person for at least the last two years. Unsurprisingly there was a pretty big turn-out, with double the numbers expected turning up amid familiar sights like long lines at the espresso coffee stands and non-existent lines for ye olde brewde coffee stande, understandable considering it offers warmed up sump oil and dishwashing water and not much else.

Despite a shortened agenda, the Australasian Institute of Digital Health’s program team managed to shoehorn in a great deal of pretty great content into the two days. Very little was dull (barring a speech by a regulatory agency representative, but that was to be expected), and we all learned a lot. It was all filmed as well so AIDH members can see everything online. There’s also a virtual showcase happening next week that will be streamed live.

We were particularly impressed with a session on Victoria’s digital health roadmap, which covered progress on cybersecurity as well as more interesting strategies like the commitment to patient portals. The planned health information exchange has raised a great deal of interest, as did a later talk on the roll-out of Victoria’s COVID-19 Vaccination Management System (CVMS). This has been a touch controversial considering the money spent on it and how difficult it was to implement, but Victoria is sticking with the program, and Queensland is too, having adopted the Microsoft platform.

That all of this – and the other states’ struggles with booking systems and inventory management – could have been avoided had the Commonwealth Department of Health listened to reason and to certain vendors back in June 2020, when it became obvious that mass vaccination was the only way out of the pandemic, is a moot point at this stage. Lessons may be learned, but they seem to be soon forgotten.

While all of the talks were pretty good, we were seriously impressed with two in particular. The first was Healthdirect Australia’s Ian Vaile’s talk on the roll-out of the National Coronavirus Helpline early in the pandemic and how it has now become an incredibly valuable knowledge base, the model for which can be applied to future pandemics or natural disasters. One of the reasons why this system of centralised information seems to have worked so well is that it was not so much a technology or clinical system roll-out as a well-curated and authoritative content one. It seems to have worked.

The other seriously impressive talk was by Western NSW LHD lead virtual pharmacist Brett Chambers on the concept of a virtual clinical pharmacy service. This service is now improving the capture of medication histories, medication reconciliation in hospital and medication reconciliation on discharge to patients, clinicians and health services that simply have not had access to it before. It’s a measure of what big tech like a statewide EMR and eMeds solution, allied to widespread video conferencing through agile apps like Pexip, can do to provide access to health services that city types otherwise take for granted.

Take a look at those two presentations in particular through the AIDH Digital Health TV service. And if you can, watch iCIMS’ MD Ali Besiso’s talk on his company’s work at The San hospital in Sydney on multidisciplinary team meetings and the technology that is being harnessed to facilitate them. Microsoft’s legendary Excel EMR makes an appearance, hopefully but unrealistically for the last time.

That brings us to our poll question for the week:

Did the Australian Department of Health drop the ball in 2020 by not planning for a national vaccine management system?

Vote here or leave your comments below.

Last week we asked: Will Telstra Health achieve its goal of joined-up care in the Australian health system? Most said no: 71 per cent to 29. We also asked why, or why not. Here’s what you said.


0 # Kate McDonald 2022-03-04 15:38
Last week, we asked: Did the Australian Department of Health drop the ball in 2020 by not planning for a national vaccine management system? Oh yeah, readers said. 95 per cent said yes, while just five per cent said no.

We also asked your thoughts on what DoH should have done instead? Here’s what you said:

- Mass vaccination hubs through state health departments

- Got on with it

- They should have made vaccination mandatory with exemptions on medical grounds and then focused upon personal to deliver the vaccinations including retired doctors and nurses and pharmacists. The military could have assisted with its organized roll out.

- Information at the time modelled that it was not necessary!

- The DoH (and the Federal Government in general) is incapable of doing anything useful in healthcare. It is full of the wrong people doing the wrong things. Look at the big picture and you see many big failures - Aged Care, NDIS, sourcing and distributing vaccines, a vaccine management system and of course the while elephant that is MyHR. If MyHR was any good Victoria (and NSW etc) wouldn't need to reinvent the wheel.

- Implemented a national record system

- Utilised all available services & planned ahead

- Provided national leadership rather than let each jurisdiction do their own thing. They should have planned better, had stocks in place and the logistics in place to roll out a smooth implementation. But like our PM they decided they didn’t hold the hose!

- Disappointing to say the least.

- Plan better for the future. We know mass vaccinations is the only thing that works!

- DOH should roll out EMR nationwide that enables the communication of patient in all settings from pharmacy and vaccination programmes to GP and Hospital settings

- Planned it better, not listened to the PM and made it an actual race, done better advertising that involved more than a band-aid

- Stop states dealing with health. Should be federal.

- Full impact would not have been known and no one expected the virus to continue mutating.

- Use existing infrastructure in the states in particular Registered Nurses to facilitate the vaccination process, including distribution to high risk individuals. The system they put in place was politicised from the outset and created competition where it should have created collaboration and comradery.

- The Vaccine Clinic Finder was a great idea. But the amount of spend and duplication created by States having to implement their own systems was unforgivable. Tax payer would be horrified if they new the true extent of the efforts and costs involved. Not to mention the lack of inter-operabili ty for someone moving or travelling across borders.

- Acted on advice from the states and planned for the rollout much earlier

- They underestimated the dept and breadth of the issue. Whilst I am saying this with reservations (the Commonwealth are not good at building things themselves) some better planning would have identified weaknesses in the system for which, solutions could have been put in place beforehand. Hopefully we are now better prepared for the next round/event, assuming the lessons learned have been applied.

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